Lessons from the Trayvon Martin Case

Hedy Gutfreund Acting Co-Editor-in-Chief It’s not every day that the main news story on nearly every network centers on a murder involving hoodies, Arizona Iced Tea, and Skittles. Though it might sound like a warped game of “Clue,” most people know that this really refers to the media’s most recent and current favorite story: the shooting of Trayvon Martin. A microcosm for so many issues in contemporary society, this story’s climactic rise to popularity isn’t surprising. It brings issues of race, gun control, and media bias all to the forefront of our minds. Even if we can’t come to a consensus about what happened with this tragedy, and even if justice is not served in the way we hope, it gives us a platform for discussion at Latin for many relevant and life-altering issues. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Trayvon Martin, the gist of it is that last February, a seventeen-year-old African-American boy was walking home from 7-11 (with Arizona Iced Tea and Skittles) when George Zimmerman, a twenty-eight-year-old Hispanic American community watch coordinator, saw him as a threat and shot him to death. The shooting took place in Florida, where the Stand Your Ground law allows for everyday people to be armed and defend themselves. While the law was originally intended to protect women suffering from domestic abuse, it can write off Martin’s shooting as a case of self-defense. Zimmerman called the police to report suspicious behavior, but they told him not to worry about it or take any action. Zimmerman has been charged with second degree murder, as announced on April 11th. Regardless of what did happen that day – whether Martin was attacking Zimmerman or if Zimmerman just stereotyped him as a threat – the issues remain the same, and they can affect us drastically as Latin students. Race might be the initial social factor to blame, as senior Audrey Sekendur believes. “The nation’s attention to this particular case reminds me of our inexcusable lack of attention to the average 4,000 young blacks who are murdered by other blacks every year,” she argues. “We are selective when it comes to lending our attention to the early deaths of African-Americans.” Furthermore, many blame the shooting on discrimination alone. Would Zimmerman really have felt the need to “stand his ground” had Martin been white or if he’d not been wearing a hoodie? Soon after his death, people around the nation began to band together to protest the prejudice and stereotypes associated with wearing a hoodie. Sophomore Annaka Stoeckel says in response to the hoodie discussion, “I’m tempted to go out and buy a hoodie.”  Whether we can never be sure if a hoodie caused an innocent death, it brings up issues we need to address. After Touré came to Latin in January, Latin students still felt an overwhelming sense of confusion on how to address racism in our lives, and this has only contributed it. Do we really live in a society where black males have to come to terms with the fact that, even as an innocent bystander in a situation, they can seem like a threat, no matter how they present themselves? Beyond that, it brought a highly relevant topic of constitutional debate to the forefront: the right to bear arms. In my opinion, the Stand Your Ground law is the most at fault for the killing. Defenders of the Stand Your Ground argue that its intentions to fight domestic abuse (especially for female victims), justifies  allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons, and the National Rifle Association has been particularly pushing to protect the Stand Your Ground. However, senior Darcy Tuttle would definitely not do the same. As she eloquently puts it, “The Trayvon Martin case shows how dangerous too much freedom for guns can be. Maybe this tragedy occurred in Florida, but other tragedies that also resulted from easy access to guns occur in Chicago every day. We need to stand up to laws like Stand Your Ground and keep them from spreading.” These laws can increase violence rather than help people protect themselves, and it’s an issue that Latin students should be aware of. Lessened gun control can put citizens in danger of people legally carrying weapons, like George Zimmerman was. Had this law not been in place, he would have had no reason to defend his murder of Trayvon Martin, and he probably would not have tried to be the vigilante he thought he was being by killing an apparently innocent young man. Some, though, may argue that Martin was not an innocent young man. Zimmerman reports being attacked by him, but senior Wilson Brehmer puts the point into perspective. “When the media chooses facts like it did, people wrongfully believe that they know all the details,” he says. “There is a bounty on Zimmermann’s head dead or alive and nobody knows for sure what happened.” It’s essential to look at the reliability of the sources from which we get our information in all aspects of our lives. Even though this case particularly brings out this issue, we should always be aware that what we get from the media is not comprehensive; innately, nothing is ever completely unbiased. Furthermore, the media will do lots to boost their ratings, and as Wilson points out, “The media decided that the way to [to do that] was to make this story about a ‘white guy’ shooting an innocent black kid.” Though we’ll never know the full truth, we’re sure to be hearing lots more of this story, and we’d love to hear what Forum readers have to say. How much can we trust the media? Do we have the right to bear arms? Can hoodies be responsible for a murder?]]>